Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Rivers Bill Passes U.S. House of Representatives
Bipartisan Legislation One Step Closer to Preserving Additions to Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Portions of the Pratt River and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River
SEATTLE — March 18, 2010 Supporters of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 1769 / S. 721) celebrated as the legislation moved closer to final passage.
The measure, which passed out of the House of Representatives today, would protect an additional 22,000 acres of wilderness adjoining the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and would add 10 miles of the Pratt River and nearly 30 miles of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River to the National Wild and Scenic River System. Washington wilderness supporters thanked Representative Dave Reichert for his continuing leadership, advocacy and bipartisan approach to protecting the wilderness and free-flowing rivers in the North Cascades.
"This is a great day for wilderness and wild and scenic rivers in our beautiful North Cascades," said John Chelminiak, North Cascades Initiative Director for The Wilderness Society. "We thank Congressman Reichert for his continued leadership to build legislation on bipartisan and strong local support, and to preserve these amazing places for all Washingtonians to experience and enjoy."
Originally designated in 1976, the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area has since become one of the most popular wilderness areas in the country. The legislation would add an additional 22,000 acres to the existing wilderness area. These additions are comprised of diverse low-elevation forests with robust fish and wildlife populations that include cougars, black bears, elk and native trout. The inclusion of low-elevation land will conserve diverse ecosystems, add to the biodiversity of the wilderness area and protect recreational opportunities such as hiking, backpacking, fishing, climbing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
"Washington state lawmakers have built a rich history of working with local citizens to protect a wild legacy for future generations," stated Tom Uniack, Conservation Director for Washington Wilderness Coalition. "Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray are continuing the work that was started with the original Alpine Lakes Wilderness designation, and we applaud their continued leadership."
The legislation would keep the entire Pratt River and the upper portion of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River in their present pristine condition. These rivers are home to world-class fishing, kayaking and whitewater rafting, are within easy reach of Seattle, and provide residents with easy opportunities to experience their free-flowing nature.
"Protection of these spectacular rivers is so important to the quality of life we enjoy in this region," said Thomas O’Keefe, Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. "The Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie are the rivers where my son has learned to kayak and where he took his first casts with a fly rod. We are truly blessed to live in a community with the natural resources that these rivers represent. This legislation will protect the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie just the way they are for future generations and for the benefit of our communities."
The protection of these valuable rivers under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System would also safeguard high water quality for downstream residents and preserve critical wildlife and fish habitat.
"We applaud Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray for championing these Wild and Scenic designations that ensure we will continue to enjoy these wonderful rivers today and for generations to come," said Bonnie Rice, Associate Director of River Protection at American Rivers. "Rivers provide important migration corridors for wildlife and cold, clean water for native fish. And as we've seen with other Wild and Scenic rivers in the Northwest and across the country, this special designation can bring real benefits to local economies and communities."
"Protecting these areas was part of our original vision for the 1976 Alpine Lakes Wilderness designation. This bill is a fitting acknowledgment of the countless hours of work over the last 30 years by local grassroots volunteers to gain protections for the Pratt-Middle Fork region," said Donald Parks of the Alpine Lakes Protection Society. "The rare low-elevation old-growth and mature forests, the protected rivers and streams, along with the assurance that these places will remain protected for future generations, will be lasting tribute to the vision and courage of Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray."
Together, Congressman Reichert and Senator Murray have developed legislation that protects some of Washington’s remaining wild resources while ensuring future recreational opportunities. Strong support has also been provided by the Washington Congressional delegation, including Senator Cantwell and Representatives Inslee, Smith, Baird and McDermott, who were original cosponsors of the legislation. The final action that needs to be taken is for the U.S. Senate to pass the legislation and send it onto President Obama for his signature.
"Grassroots supporters of the Alpine Lakes country have never given up hope, nor stopped working to see that additional critical habitat and recreational areas would be protected," said Mark Lawler of the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Today, thanks to hard work and dedication by members of our Washington delegation, these special places have a real chance of being protected for future generations to enjoy."
This is a joint release by: Alpine Lakes Protection Society, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Cascade Chapter Sierra Club, Middle Fork Coalition, North Cascades Conservation Council, The Moutaineers, Washington Trails Association, Washington Wilderness Coalition and The Wilderness Society.